ARP funding: A generational opportunity for Ohio communities
A once-in-a-generation infusion of funding is coming to Ohio to help hard-hit communities recover from the pandemic. Over 2,200 local entities across Ohio are expected to receive ~$5.3B from the Treasury Fiscal Recovery Fund, part of the American Recovery Plan (ARP) that passed Congress in March 2021. Following a year where Ohio’s unemployment rate spiked to 15% (and was even higher for minority and non-credentialed populations, and in many already struggling geographies), local leaders have the opportunity use these funds to make bold, strategic investments that can accelerate equitable and inclusive economic recovery across regions and demographic groups.
These funds can be used for a range of investments, of which three are most relevant to JobsOhio: 1) Addressing the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency; 2) Serving the hardest-hit communities, populations, and families; 3) Investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. Funding is being allocated to local governments in two tranches, one in 2021 and the other in 2022. Treasury Fiscal Recovery Funds must be obligated before the end of 2024 and expended before the end of 2026.
Purpose and development of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Guidebook
With many local entities receiving a significant infusion of funds, JobsOhio set out in mid-April to work with local, regional, and state leaders to learn their plan for ARP funds, share best practices, and support leaders in maximizing the potential economic impact of ARP funds. The effort had the following objectives:
- Identify investment ideas and initiatives intended to maximize long-term benefit to Ohio’s economy
- Ensure Ohio’s competitiveness among states in the Midwest
- Augment JobsOhio’s economic development strategies
In order to achieve these objectives, JobsOhio and our Network Partners engaged more than 20 major partner organizations and over 200 local leaders and elected officials to understand their priorities and needs as well as opportunities for collaboration and co-investment.
The Guidebook addresses what we learned from our conversations, national best practices, and Treasury guidance regarding the tools and information requested by local leaders.
Ohio leaders identified three priority investment areas that are broadly aligned to Treasury Recovery Fund objectives:
- Build a more resilient workforce by investing in talent hard-hit by the pandemic (e.g., support for training for high-demand skills for individuals in qualified populations and those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic)
- Upgrade critical infrastructure to revitalize communities and support Ohio’s economy (e.g., expanding digital infrastructure coverage)
- Support the small businesses and industries most negatively impacted by the pandemic (e.g., scale access to grants/loans for SMBs)
Leaders also identified several areas where they wanted to receive additional support and information:
- Clear understanding of ARP guidance to make allowable investment choices – and resources to determine eligibility for investment ideas not explicitly allowed
- Example initiatives that could be applied for lasting impact
- Implementation support such as best practices and “plug-and-play” models
- Opportunities for co-investment with other available funds
- Additional local capacity for small to medium-sized communities to manage ARP investments and avoid having to return funds
How local leaders can use the Guidebook
The Guidebook is a resource for local leaders looking to maximize impact of ARP funds and become better informed about ARP funds and potential investments. It is intended to support leaders at different stages of investment decision-making, including:
- About the ARP Treasury Recovery Funds and the Guidebook: Overview of funds coming to Ohio and the process conducted by JobsOhio (slides 1-9)
- Understanding and interpreting guidance on allowable uses of funds: Summary of federal guidance regarding allowable uses and timeline for Treasury Fiscal Recovery Funds (slides 10-18)
- Identifying high-level investment priorities: Potential investment areas suggested by leaders across the state (talent, infrastructure, and small business/impacted industry supports) (slides 25-28)
- Selecting specific funding ideas and identifying best practices: Example potential initiatives (slides 29-37) and case studies on select potential initiatives (slides 44-59)
- Driving an equitable process: Potential equitable process to set and implement funding priorities (slides 39-42)
Readers should note that summarized Treasury guidance is current as of June 18, 2021, with select updates based on FAQs that were released since. Treasury has not yet issued the Final Rule regarding use of ARP funds. As the guidance is complex and evolving, local governments should consult the latest guidance (e.g., Final Rule when it is issued) and with their legal counsel as needed.
JobsOhio is grateful to the many leaders across the state who contributed to developing the Guidebook. With the right tools and well-resourced leaders, Ohio has an opportunity to further strengthen its economy and promote an inclusive, equitable recovery in our communities.